"An amazing act of courage..."

I was in the middle of writing another post when I got the ever-appreciated ding that a friend had sent me a message via Facebook chat. I met this friend (let's call her N. to keep her anonymous) in the writing program I was in. We shared a room at a conference and generally got along splendidly because of some similarities in our pasts. Both of us had our share of mental health issues and had spent time in psychiatric units. We discussed our various medications with no small amount of glee. And we both found ourselves struggling after graduation, both of us having difficulty finding our way in the world. We kept in vague touch, although neither knew the full story of what happened with the other person.

So N. asked how I was doing, and I decided to come clean with the story of my relapse and what I was up to now, and I was relieved to hear what kind of support I got. It was so nice to just share what had been going through my mind, and how I felt like our program screw up because of all my issues. And N. said, basically, no, I couldn't be the program screw up because that job was hers. I was just about to assure her that this was one job she was safe resigning from when I had to laugh. It was like those interminable conversations with other people at treatment, as to who was the fattest. And everyone always insisted it was them no matter how often the other girls said that no, they were the fattest ones there. It was a losing argument, and no one ever had an accurate idea of their true shape and size and the end of the discussion, but we always persisted on having them anyways.

Still, it was reassuring to know that someone else was floundering in life and thinking they were a failure and wondering how they were going to be a successful writer when all they could see was this big black wall of FAILURE sitting in front of them.

As I was chatting with N., I was reminded of a visit our program got by someone who had graduated several years previously. She told us of how much of her early career could be described in one word: flailing. All of us in the program laughed nervously, knowing that this experience was waiting for us, too.

And it was. It really, really was.

So I reminded N. about this quote, and I told her: Maybe we're not failing. Maybe we're just flailing.

She agreed and the conversation drifted, as conversations tend to do. We eventually started talking about our current writing projects, me with my freelance projects and her with her novel. Then N. said something rather profound:

Just sitting down to write every day is an act of amazing courage on my part.

I had to agree.

It's hard for me to express to other people just how much courage I have to muster up to get through the day, how much energy it takes to look "normal" sometimes. Sometimes getting out of bed is an amazing act of courage. Eating sure is.

We all have things--courageous things--that we do every single day. Just because they're ordinary doesn't make them any less courageous.

What's your "amazing act of courage"?

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rr said...

thank you so much for this. I was just thinking about how hard my day had been yesterday and how no one had any idea because a big part of what had been hard was keeping it from looking hard. Its so nice to be reminded (from an outside source) that sometimes, for us, the littlest things can take tremendous amounts of energy and take days to recover from.

Yesterday my hard thing was to meet my best friends new girlfriend and be true to myself the whole time, regardless of whether I liked her or not. I did it. Successfully.

Thanks for giving me a place to brag about something that seems so small to so many, but is so huge to me.

Jane Cawley said...

I'm glad you're brave enough to write because I really like reading your stuff : )

Angela E. Lackey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angela E. Lackey said...

For me, it feels like an act of courage to stay in graduate school. Many people have told me to quit after my recent relapse because I am working like hell to catch up after one week in IP, but I refuse to. I'm studying English Language and Literature, and writing and reading are so much a part of me, If I were to leave, anorexia would win. I would no longer be me.

Many days I don't want to get up and go to classes (it's a 45-minute drive.) Many days I want to pull the covers over my head and say the hell with it, particularly recently. Combine that with a two-hour weekly drive to my therapist in Farmington, and sometimes I do want to quit.

My second act of courage will sound really trivial - I ate a full meal today; just half a sandwich and a bowl of potato and leek soup. I was very afraid of that soup, with its cream and potatoes. But I ate it.

Finding Melissa said...

This is a great post and I love the idea of flailing, rather than failing!

The courage question is really interesting and I can totally emphathise with the constant struggling with things that should be "easy". My eating disorder made a lot of things feel scary, and food was only one source of fear. Not throwing up, talking to people, going out, going to work, sending emails, drinking coffee with normal milk, and a whole host of big and small things have all been scary at different times, and mostly because of the meanings and associations I have linked to them, as well as an inherent lack of confidence that I am able to even get the basic things right.

This is maybe where the failing - flailing concept comes in because what I'm really scared of is failing at any given task or always getting it wrong. It's also where it's important to do that courage thing and go through with the fear; because, more often than not, I can do things I didn't think I could!...like go on a dinner date (yesterday), or post this commment (today...

Cathy (UK) said...

First Carrie, I understand the difficulties you describe in sometimes just getting through the day...

In terms of my "amazing act of courage": it was taking my first steps in recovery from 28 yrs of anorexia nervosa (AN) in 2005. These first steps were to change my behaviour - by eating differently. I didn't fear getting bigger because I was emaciated and I hated my thinness, but I was terrified of CHANGE - i.e. a change of routine. I had convinced myself that I couldn't survive life unless I adhered to a strict daily 'timetable' focused around food restriction, exercise (and working).

Eating more afre restricting anorexia nervosa is a huge act of courage for anyone, but I also have an ASD, which was closely linked to my anorexia. I had always struggled with rituals of some sort, changes of routine and compulsive behaviours. At the time I seriously felt that I would rather be dead than change my routine - yet I didn't want to die because my parents would be distraught.

ASD, anorexia nervosa, OCD and depression are not a good combination for coping with life. However, I'm so glad I managed to stick with recovery. Achieving a healthy weight has 'cured' my anorexia nervosa but not my ASD, OCD and tendency towards depression.

Abby said...

I can relate to not only your thoughts on this post, but to so much of Cathy's comment above (as I always can with her...) Although I've always looked at it as a struggle, I suppose I could also look at every day as an act of courage.

While I'm not afraid to eat in terms of getting "fat," I am afraid to change my routines with food (times, meals, etc.) and exercise. Any slight alteration sparks anxiety and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Even daily, getting out of bed and going to work, even getting in the shower, publishing posts, carrying on like I'm fine is so much work. I just want to "be", whatever that means, so I suppose every step I take away from giving into that feeling is slightly courageous.

I don't remember who said it, but I loved this quote in recovery,"Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'"

Erica said...

Amazing post, thank you!

Kim said...

I love this idea, as I'm often so negative and self-critical and get stuck on my struggles instead of seeing how great a job I'm doing each and every day. My mom commented this past weekend that she knows anorexia is a somewhat chronic thing in life, but that she's so happy that I've learned to manage myself so well. I never really give myself kudos for that. I do manage pretty well. I made the choice to try medication recently because I knew my anxiety and depression wasn't going so well. I don't know what's "normal," but I'm getting better at just focusing on what's normal for ME. There are things in my daily life that are little acts of courage that may not be a big deal for someone else, but that doesn't really matter. Any time I write a blog post or have a snack or reach out to my husband... those are all acts of courage for me.
Great post, as always!

Adrianna said...

I stood up to my mother on the issues of what's attractive in terms of weight and what a healthy diet is.

I wrote a controversial blog post and read the comments from my detractors and was respectful to them.

I ate half my weight in sushi, dumplings, and beef jerky...and I didn't think anything of it.:)

I made some money doing something I never thought I'd do.

Libby Towell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

My amazing act of courage is getting up every day, going to work, having a smile on my face and a sympathetic ear for my coworkers and children, all while I'm thinking about my family's lurking financial catastrophe (my husband is unemployed and not looking for work), my daughter's lack of health insurance, and my in-laws denial of the seriousness of their health problems.

Telstaar said...

I haven't read the comments... but I REALLY appreciated this post... why? Because I think we CAN have courage while still not always being okay. I have felt rather under attack lately and its been hard... like I'm never good enough. The reality is, that I am living life and even though ed wise I"m not doing well... I think that takes courage to do. It would be a LOT easier to sit down and JUST do treatment, to let that become my way of life, but for ME (and this does NOT necessarily apply to others) that would destroy ME and the ed would win... but there are sooo many days when I just want to lay down and give up, completely... and I keep breathing and I keep dreaming... dreaming is scary because it may or may not happen but it gives me hope too. I think that all takes courage.

I liked this post because somehow just its words, gave ME some more hope at a time that I really could use some!! Thanks!! xo

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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